EVERYONE seems to be getting very excited about the prospect of Sir Fred Goodwin, as we must still refer to him for the moment, being stripped of his knighthood.
The thinking goes like this: Sir Fred was handed his K for services to banking, which with the benefit of hindsight seems about as appropriate as saluting Boris Johnson for his services to hair styling or presenting Jeremy Clarkson with a gong for his work promoting international relations.
As a consequence, now we know that his contribution to banking was about as helpful as turning up at an AA meeting with a case of vodka, the title should be taken back.
But there’s no suggestion that he should endure some sort of public shaming, along the lines of the opening credits of the 1960s TV series Branded.
If you’re not aware of the scene, Chuck Connors is a cavalry officer falsely accused of cowardice and as a result cashiered – that is, he stands in a silent square of his comrades while his hat is pulled off, his epaulettes are torn from his uniform, his buttons are pulled off, and his sabre is broken, all before being kicked out of the fort in disgrace. Now you’re talking!
But as you might expect, I have a less brutal but more appropriate suggestion.
Rather than take back Sir Fred’s title, we should just change it to something else.
It would need to be short and sharp and slip easily off the tongue, so I’d suggest Slap, Punch or Kick, although those who think we should avoid the possibility of random violence – and there will be some – might prefer something less physical, like Berate, Sneer or Booby.
It might not sound like much, because you’ll be aware that there are many who have been awarded titles and other accolades who don’t commonly use those honorifics at every turn through modesty or an unwillingness to change the names they’ve been used to all their lives.
But we should make it a condition that Sir Fred, right, uses the title at every opportunity, and every time he doesn’t he stands to be fined a hefty chunk of that giant pension pot he built up while selflessly piloting his bank down the Swanee.
So it would have to be Slap Fred Goodwin on the electoral roll, on his credit cards, on his correspondence, and every time he phoned up to reserve a table at the sort of restaurant the rest of us can’t afford thanks in part to his peerless stewardship he would have to use his name in full.
I’m not a hard man, and this doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifetime sentence.
Ten years or so ought to be plenty, and a charitable man might say that the name would have to stick until the economy got back on its feet, which we all hope might be a little sooner.
But if Sir Fred and his ilk are so happy to take the plaudits, however little they deserve them, it only seems fair that they should be prepared to carry the can when it turns out that their captaincy was at Italian cruise ship levels of competence.
It’s not quite a hairshirt, it’s not exactly Branded, but it would certainly be a start.